Across Europe in 90 years

Inseparably linked with the dragon class and yet an eternal mystery is one of the world’s most fascinating prizes in sailing. it went missing, it re-emerged, it was reclaimed, narrowly defended, and thought to have been lost forever. at the same time, it could rightly be referred to as the “europe’s cup”, having been abducted from the usa already in 1929 at the very first race by the swedes and having ever since remained in europe – where the dragon class has been competing for it since 1952.

The mysteries of the Cup

The Marblehead Cup was endowed in 1929 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the town of Marblehead, Massachusetts in order to showcase Marblehead’s pride as a sailing capital. Why the Cup itself is boldly engraved “Marblehead Trophy” even though the deed of gift clearly stipulates that the prize is to be known as the “Marblehead Cup” will probably always remain the first mystery of the Cup. In a downright irony of fate, races known as “Marblehead Cups” have been held in the remote-controlled Marblehead class for decades around the world, yet they have nothing to do with our Marblehead Trophy whatsoever. The second mystery, namely why the original engraving on the Marble- head Cup features the year 1649, was easily clarified by Chris Johnston, Chairman of the Historical Commission of the town of Marblehead: The town became independent from Salem only 20 years after the first European settled there in 1629; nevertheless, the 300th anniversary was celebrated in 1929.

As the readers will be aware, 1929 was also the year when Norwegian Johan Anker de- signed the Dragon, to which we will return I just a little while. Yet the class that competed for the Marblehead Trophy from 1929 onwards may well be regarded as a precursor to the Dragon. Though it is often said that the Dragon was modelled on the 6 metre class as a cheaper and safer alternative for young sailors probably because designer Johan Anker is chiefly revered for his metre boats – , the Dragon evidently bears even closer kinship of soul and genes to the skerry cruisers, which also originated from Sweden and which were likewise conceived as a cheaper alternative to the metre yachts. Just try and overcome the freeboard of all three designs without the aid of a boarding ladder and you will quickly appreciate the kinship. The 30m2 skerry cruisers in particular were held in high regard as exceptionally fine pieces of sports equipment by sailors and designers alike in the late 1920s and became increasingly popular on both sides of the Atlantic.
It is therefore no accident that the town of Marblehead in 1929 selected the 30m2 skerry cruisers to compete internationally for its newly created trophy.
It just so happened that in 1929, a certain Erik Lundberg of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club visited the USA with his 30m2 skerry cruiser Bacchant and proceeded to win an unparalleled eleven (11) races in arow – among which were the three races of the first Marblehead Trophy. As we know from a title page of the Boston Globe, the races were held in the course of the Marblehead Race Week and had only three competitors – the US boat Tipler III, the German Kickerle, and that very Swedish Bacchant –, but did not lack suspense. In the end, Bacchant with its three wins came first, ahead of Tipler III (2-2-3) and Kickerle (3-3-2). In the third race, the first and the third boat are reported to have crossed the line within one minute and seven seconds of each other, after over three hours of racing – the Marblehead Trophy made for extremely exciting sailing right from the start!

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